The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on H.R. 36, a bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), which would effectively make it illegal to perform or attempt to perform an abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life were in danger or the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.
A similar bill failed to pass in Congress in 2013 and 2015, upholding 24 weeks as the cut-off limit for abortions. But Republican congressional majorities with a Republican president (who has already claimed he would sign the bill if it crossed his desk) have emboldened Rep. Franks to think that the third time’s the charm.
Less than 2% of abortions occur after 20 weeks. In making the cutoff 20 weeks rather than 24, politicians with no knowledge or training in obstetrics would force women to give birth even when the fetus has a severe birth defect or abnormality that is often incompatible with life. The decision to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks because of a heartbreaking diagnosis is profoundly personal, and can only be made between a woman and her doctor. We already imbue the doctor-patient relationship with a special status, conferring confidentiality even in the face of the law. Branding doctors as criminals for performing abortions jeopardizes the care doctors may give to their patients and it erodes trust in a hallowed relationship.
A 20-week ban on abortion is not only unethical, it’s unconstitutional. It flouts the decision in Roe v. Wade that allows for a woman’s right to choose until 24 weeks, or fetal viability. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already struck down statewide 20-week bans in both Arizona and Idaho because they interfered with women acting within their constitutional rights. We cannot be confident that the current United States Supreme Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority created by the theft of Merrick Garland’s seat by Mitch McConnell and the subsequent appointment of ultra-conservative Neal Gorsuch, will adhere to the precedent of Roe. This Supreme Court majority is also the reason the Rhode Island legislature must pass the Reproductive Health Care Act, which codifies Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island law.
Rhode Island Democrats in the 2nd District are in an unusual position to affect H.R. 36 bill, because we are represented by one of the few Democrats to support it — Representative Jim Langevin (D) has historically voted in favor of this bill.
This is not about fetal pain. This is not about saving lives. This is about dictating to women in the most personal decision they can ever make. A vote in favor of H.R. 36 is a vote in favor of the GOP agenda that shackles women in their most intimate situations: a campus sexual assault, at the pharmacist, in the doctor’s office. We already know what our President thinks he can do to women’s bodies; we need Congress to stand up for us now.
Please call Representative Langevin at 401-732-9400 and urge him to oppose this dangerous bill. Though Representative Langevin has strong personal beliefs about this issue, it is incumbent upon us as constituents to offer our strong personal beliefs and ask him to represent us when he casts his vote on Tuesday.